Greens want Goa governor to refuse assent to ‘coconut-not-tree’ bill

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Panaji, March 4 (IANS) Environmentalists are hoping that Goa Governor Mridula Sinha will take a dim view of a bill that takes away the coconut palm’s status as a tree, making it easier for people to cut it down.

“We hope she will keep her word and does not give assent to the amendment,” green activist Prajal Sakhardande said.

Sakhardande, fashion designer Wendell Rodricks and other activists had met Sinha to urge her to refuse assent to the bill.

The controversial amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Protection of Trees Act, which derecognises coconut palm as a tree, was passed by the assembly in January.

“When we met her, the governor told us that the coconut palm was an essential part of Goa’s cultural idenitity and that she supported our cause,” Sakhardande said.

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Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar told reporters on Friday that the bill had been sent to the governor for her assent.

The opposition and the environmentalists have slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government for supporting the bill which, they say, will facilitate “mass massacre of coconut trees in the state”.

The MLAs of the ruling coalition said the amendment would allow farmers to cut down old and non productive trees without red tape.

The opposition also alleged that the amendment was made to facilitate easy clearing of coconut grooves, a common sight in Goa, to make way for real-estate development.

Green activists have been meeting Governor Mridula Sinha to apprise her of their concerns.

The Congress has said that if voted to power in the 2017 assembly elections, it would accord the status of ‘state tree’ to the coconut palm.

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